Christian is an artist, designer and educator. In 2001 Christian wrote the well received book ‘Mobile Vulgus’, which examined the history of the political crowd and which set the tone for his research into participatory mapping. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2004, Christian has led a number of large scale participatory projects and worked with a team on diverse academic research projects. In particular his ‘Bio Mapping’ project has received large amounts of international publicity and been staged in 16 different countries and over 1500 people have taken part in workshops and exhibitions. These participatory projects have a strong pedagogical basis and grew out of Christian’s formal university teaching. He is currently based at the Bartlett, University College London.
Sunday 13th September
A psychogeographical tour of the area formerly known as Paradise.
As part of her project Parallel Worlds, artist Katy Beinart and the Oxford Psychogeography Society present a walk around central Oxford, discovering the area once known as Paradise. The walk invites intrepid explorers to abandon their preconceptions, and venture out into both familiar and unfamiliar territories, aided by maps and clues provided by the Society.
Conducts creative, participatory research that aims to temporarily transform public spaces dominated by non-public agendas. Using performance and conversation, we investigate social and political "tiny things".
A week ago I took part in a work commissioned for The Art Crawl in Nottingham by Katie Doubleday and Andrew Brown. I was given a map and instuctions for 'Stillness, Slowness and Stopping: A walk for a group in a city at night'. Kitted out with an ipod shuffle and a clear instruction to turn it on and follow its commands at exactly 7.50pm, I found myself to be part of an artwork. Immaculately timed and choreographed, the recorded directions led me and about 25 other people traverse the streets of Nottingham. The narration was monotone and factual but not unfriendly, yet commanding enough to want to follow through what it was telling you to do. Simple commands began with ‘speed up your pace until you reach Clumber Street…Slowly come to a halt and begin walking again at a normal pace.' Jointly narrated by the artists, a trust was gained to follow their verbal mapping of the city centre. Being part of a group also meant there was safety in numbers and one did not feel singled out or foolish. In fact it soon became a pleasurable experience to feel as though one were part of one physical entity that made its mark on the cityscape. The most poignant instruction to stop coincided expertly with the Council House beginning its chimes. This was when people about the streets of Nottingham began to take notice of the collection of people all stood as still as sleeping automatons, dotted about one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe.
Comments began to filter through the ipod headphones….
“Oooh, what are they doing?”
“What’s it for mate?”
“What are you standing still for?”
“Don’t they look daft?!”
“Whoa, that’s well freaky!”
People, who wouldn’t normally notice your existence or catch your eye in the busy hustle of the city, were now approaching the stationary group of us and waving in our faces, trying to prompt laughter or movement. But not for long, our aural tour guides told us to begin our journey again. At times the pace was fast, sometimes slow, sometimes serendipitously timed to make a graceful crossing over the tramlines. Until we realised we were forming a neat geographical grid in the most public of places in the city, the Market Square. 5 lines of 5 people – evenly spaced, stood still in the at a time when most come on a Friday night to meet their friends and lovers at the left Lion statue before going for a pint or to a club. The clock eerily struck 8pm at almost the exact second when the grid took its intended shape. All eyes were upon us, and it felt like Nottingham’s nightlife were expecting us to put on a good show.
I wondered what we would be instructed to do next, slaves as we now were to the collective hive mind of the ipods – almost like a scene in a science fiction movie – my sense of surrealism kicked in and I wondered if we would turn into a zombie army or be beamed up into the sky to the mother ship. A friend commented after the event that he was worried that we would all be instructed to take part in some sort of choreographed dance like the Youtube favourite of the orange suited prisoners in a Thai jail who had mastered a mass performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance.
This was not the case as we all were instructed to resume our journey in a similar fashion to how we had arrived in this public square in the first instance. A few hundred yards away, we were given our freedom from the collective mind and permitted to walk at our own natural paces back to the starting point. This permitted participants to regain their anonymity and cease being surveilled, or living sculptures, or the followers of an artists work. I for one was enchanted by this interlude where I was able to travel through the familiar city, which I have walked through several times a day for over 20 years, in a new and enlightening way because I was part of a group. Somehow feeling foolish had been averted and all felt a collective amusement and sense of wonder.
Review by Jenny Syson June 2009: http://www.nottinghamvisualarts.net/review/jun-09/lets-go-walk
"...The practical and theoretical research phase of the Open City project was initiated in 2006 in collaboration with artist/performer Simone Kenyon. During this phase of research Open City worked with teachers of the Alexander Technique deconstructing the mechanics of walking, and observed patterns of group behaviour and ‘everyday’ movements in public spaces. This speculative phase of research was expanded upon through a pilot project where the artists worked with members of the public, inviting them to attempt to get lost in the city, to consider codes of conduct through observation and mimicry, to explore behavioural patterns in the public realm as a form of choreography, and to approach the spaces of the city as an amphitheatre or stage upon which to perform. This culminated in a series of public performances..."
A twenty minute walk through the streets of Nottingham at night. As part of The Art Crawl at Tether Studios on May 29th. You will be sent a map and instructions previous to the walk which you will need to read. The walk will begin at Broadway Media Centre where you will be issued with an ipod loaded with instructions. At the signalled time you will press play and you begin to walk. See The Art Crawl Website for information on how to sign up to The Art Crawl.
Places are limited.
Venue: Broadway Media Centre, Café Bar
Each participant arrives at the Broadway Media Centre café bar at 3pm with their own MP3 or other player loaded with the open city sound ﬁle and a map (http://www.radiator-festival.org/downloads)
Participants start their recordings at precisely 3.05pm going by the digital clock in the Broadway Cafe Bar. They are then guided through a series of synchronised instructions as they walk through Nottingham City Centre.
We were awarded an Arts Council England grant for a phase of research to be developed in collaboration with Emma Cocker. As part of this research Emma and myself took a ten day trip to Japan to see the dis-locate festival in Yokohama and participate in the attached Constructing Place symposium. Our research focused on exploring the use of written and spoken text in the work, exploring movement, speed and temporalities in the public realm and exploring the impact of cultural context on the meaning of the work.
Part of the research grant was used to purchase thirty ipod shuffles. The ipods will be used to explore delivering spoken text to an audience at different places around cities and also to deliver instructions that can be carried out individually and as a group. For the dis-locate symposium we delivered a performative presentation in which the audience took a walk through Yokohama responding to a series of instructions on the ipod. The instructions included stopping, standing still, looking up and slowing down. The idea of the walk was to take the particpant through a number of performative modes that gave a specific context to the ideas we had been talking about as part of our presentation.
Midlands based performance practitioners took part in a hidden group 'dance' across Nottingham. In the studio practitioners learned a series of habitual gestures and actions which were performed at different points around Nottingham's centre. Following individual routes scored onto a map practitioners followed a choreography embedded within the existing movements of pedestrians using the city that night.
1) A group stand still at traffic lights for too long as lights turn from green to red and back to green.
2) A group observe and copy each others ways of walking.
Other instructions - attempt to get lost; consider codes of conduct through observation and mimicry; consider formations and pace of people as choreography; consider public spaces as amphitheatres; stand still somewhere busy until you no longer feel uncomfortable.